The LEEAP Education Program takes a holistic approach to addressing educational concerns throughout New York City. One way the program has been able to achieve this goal is through the New York City High School Application Advisory Committee (HSAAC), created in 2012. Committee members gather every two months to discuss ways to improve the New York City public high school admissions process. Like New York City residents, HSAAC committee members represent many diverse communities. They advocate in different ways to improve the challenges faced by families and students going through the NYC public high school admissions process. The meetings begin with committee members sharing their most recent experience with the NYC admissions process. This unique group has gained the attention of the New York City’s Department of Education (DOE) and the Office of Student Enrollment (OSE), which has been actively participating in HSAAC meetings for many years. When polled about their experiences, members praised the work of HSAAC.
HSAAC meetings function as a roundtable at which victories are celebrated and challenges are analyzed. Committee members provide their expertise on topics ranging from the clarity of language in the NYC high school directory to the ongoing effort to increase diversity among the most competitive public high schools in New York City. No topic is too broad; no idea is too small. The meetings have added value and insight to the overall NYC public high school admissions process and have helped the DOE and OSE guide a number of implementations.
An HSAAC meeting that took place on December 15, 2017, for example, illustrates how the committee has helped facilitate information sharing and problem solving among stakeholders involved in the area. At that meeting, HSAAC members served as focus group participants in order to advise OSE on plans to roll out an online application for the upcoming 2018–2019 school year—a major shift from the paper application that has been in place for over a decade. The focus group participants shared concerns, ideas, and suggestions with the DOE regarding this very significant change in practice.
HSAAC has served as a helpful resource to a broad array of stakeholders involved with the NYC public high school admissions process—in and outside city government—and its success is due to the many members who actively participate in the bi-monthly meetings.